Labels

IN a magazine cartoon I saw a few years ago, a man in a clothing store scans a display of designer shirts with obvious dismay and says to the salesperson, ``If my mother had wanted me to have the initials `PC' she would have named me Pierre Cardin.'' Wearing clothes with initials (or a signature or symbol) on them is certainly a common way of accepting labels into our lives. Other kinds of labels are not so harmless. Sometimes the cost of accepting them goes well beyond that for designer clothes! We may unknowingly accept some detrimental label for ourselves or others--perhaps as the result of an intelligence test or because of physical appearance. Though all of this may seem harmless, the price we pay is deeper rooting in a limited, materialistic sense of identity. Certainly we need to recognize limitations, areas where we fall short or where there are serious challenges. But we also need to see that these are not true of the male and female of God's creating. The child of God, created in His image, inherits His qualities only, and this is who each of us really is. The nature of our inheritance becomes more apparent as we discern the nature of God. From the Bible we can come to understand Him as the one divine Mind, from which we receive limitless intelligence. God is divine Love, which endows us with love and joy. God is Spirit, the source of strength. St. Paul described the richness of our inheritance this way: ``The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.'' 1 Think what that means. Because we are God's heirs, labels such as ``slow learner'' or ``mediocre manager'' or ``unemployable'' can't be attached to us. God's image is never unlike its original. As coheirs with Christ, we express the same infinite Mind so fully manifested by Jesus. This Mind is also the one divine Ego, the source and maintainer of man's identity and individuality. ``Mortals are egotists,'' writes Mary Baker Eddy.2 ``They believe themselves to be independent workers, personal authors, and even privileged originators of something which Deity would not or could not create. The creations of mortal mind are material. Immortal spiritual man alone represents the truth of creation.'' 3 Knowing God as man's only creator, Jesus rejected as powerless every false label presented to him, including ``hopelessly sick,'' ``insane,'' ``condemned sinner,'' even ``dead and buried.'' Yet the Master was anything but a ``self-made man.'' He gave God credit for what he did and for what he was. As we more consistently credit God for man's true nature (ours and everyone's), false labels are exposed as such, and more of that true nature comes to light. Human nature is more inclined to cherish as true the favorable labels attached by flattery, ancestry, or self-love. By accepting flattering labels based on specialized knowledge or physical appearance, we allow ourselves to be put on a pedestal, and no matter which way we step, the only direction is down. Ancestral labels may seem particularly fastened to us. Humor sometimes reinforces the apparent innocence of ethnic labels. Pride is an even more potent label affixer. But for every good ethnic trait there's usually an opposite, negative characteristic. To be free from such labels we need not reject our ancestors or our family relations. But we do need to reject the false notion that human lineage is the source of our identity and individuality. God is the one true Parent. Paul said there is ``one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.'' 4 Self-love is perhaps the most subtle source of welcome labels. But it would excuse our faults, exalt self, exclude others, and hinder the reformation of thinking that destroys sin. The urge to identify ourselves by job title (or a spouse's position), by social status, by possessions or professions--in fact, any temptation to misidentify someone as a successful material organism--is ultimately selfdefeating. Like the Biblical tower of Babel, what rises materially eventually falls. The desire for a deeper understanding of our spiritual identity lifts us out of dead-end, confused egotism. Life without human labels is never colorless or rootless. Turning away from a limited material sense of identity, we begin to see ourselves as God knows us, forever one with Him and in His loving care. And we see true individuality as our ever-developing and distinct expression of God, realized in an unduplicated and vivid spiritual nature. 1 Romans 8:16, 17. 2 The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 3 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 263. 4 Ephesians 4:6.{et

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